| Development in practice: Toward Gender Equality |
Governments' ability to identify and implement policies that promote gender equality is greatly enhanced by the active participation of other players from the development community and civil society. These agents include individual women and men, community-based groups, private-for-profit firms, trade unions, non governmental organizations, and multilateral and bilateral agencies. Interaction between public institutions and other actors provides the basis for a more informed policy dialogue on gender issues. It also lays the foundation for operational collaboration and for broadly based support for public policy measures.
Over the past several decades NGOs have become major players in international development. NGOs are by no means homogenous. In the field of development, they range from large volunteer and charity organizations, many of them based in industrial countries, to community-based self-help groups. They also include research institutes, volunteer-sending agencies, religious organizations, professional associations, and lobbying groups.
NGOs concerned with gender issues have had a particularly important role in designing and implementing gender programs, especially at the grassroots level, and in advocating policy change at the national level NGOs have been effective in providing information and education to women and in helping community-based women's organizations lobby for change. In many countries collaboration between NGOs and governments is still relatively new. Nonetheless, it is growing rapidly-most visibly in the delivery of social and financial services.
For example, in Peru a proposed basic health and nutrition project aims to improve the quality and accessibility of health and nutritional services, with an emphasis on poor women and children. NGOs are expected to play a major role in implementing the project and will be responsible for 75 percent of training and research, 40 percent of education, and 20 percent of service delivery (World Bank 1994g). In Africa many HIV/AIDS support programs are managed by NGOs with assistance from governments and funds from international donors.
In the long run choices made by private sector agents are profoundly important for the persistence or reduction of gender inequalities
In the financial services sector NGOs have found innovative ways of overcoming barriers that women face in access to credit and savings facilities. Among the better-know programs are the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, ACCION International in Latin America, and the NGO consortium ACCORD in Africa. NGOs have been very successful in organizing village banks and mobile banking systems to reach the rural poor. These credit programs provide women not only with the funds to finance income-generating activities but also with opportunities to acquire basic business skills and to assume leadership positions within their peer groups.
Governments also seek to collaborate with a range of institutions from the private sector. In the long run the choices made by private sector agents- whether households, firms, or trade unions-are profoundly important for the persistence or seduction of gender inequalities. Joint public-private sector initiatives can be vital in changing peoples perceptions about the benefits of investing in or hiring women. The private sector has a comparative advantage in providing certain kinds of services to women-for example, vocational education and training. Collaboration with the private sector- often means that public resources can be reallocated to those investments that offer the highest rate of social return. such as basic education and health care.